The Deep Well with Erin Davis Podcast

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Bearing One Another’s Burdens

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Laura Booz: Well, Erin, I really love to get things done! 

Erin Davis: Me, too!

Laura: You and I would both say we value people over projects, but . . . I write out my “to do” list the night before, and the next day if I can just crank it out, I’m feeling good! There was this one day that was just an A+ day. I was just checking things off, going from one thing to the next. Do you know what I was muttering under my breath?

Erin: Tell me!

Laura: I was muttering, “I’m a machine. I’m a machine. I’m a machine!” The Holy Spirit stopped me in my tracks and got my attention and said to my soul, “You are not a machine. You are a human being.” 

I needed that dose of perspective. I needed that reorientation, because so many times I get consumed with my to-do list and my productivity that I forget what life is really about. It’s about the heart, about being a human created in the image of God.

Erin: Yes, I had a friend once say to me years ago, “Erin, you are a machine!” I took that as really high praise. But as you’re saying that, I can see that just being a machine that produces, produces, produces, produces is not who I was made to be.

Laura: Yes. So many times when we’re in that mode, do you know what we forget to do? Connect with other people.When we don’t connect with people, we end up feeling lonely. 

Erin: So true. 

Laura: Welcome to The Deep Well with Erin Davis. It’s part of the Revive Our Hearts podcast family. I’m Laura Booz. On this season of The Deep Well, we’re talking about a subject we all need help with: loneliness. 

Erin’s going to challenge those of us who love to get things done! We’ll hear why it’s so important to value people, not just projects. Here’s Erin.

Erin: December 17, 2020 in my life was “Awkward Text Day.” I try to end each year by closing relationship accounts, so to speak. I don’t want to take bitterness or hurt or anger or tension with me into a new year, but there always seems to be some that needs to be dealt with.

Because we are broken people who live in a broken planet, we will hurt each other and we will be hurt by each other. It has helped me to stop being surprised by that and to plan for it—which means I send a lot of apology texts! I try to set aside one day every year, usually as the year is winding down, to ask the Lord to help me see where there is strain in my relationships. I ask Him to poke around a little bit in my own heart and to see where there are bruises. Then I take a deep breath and I send a text. Usually, because I’m kind of a wimp, I send it via a text that goes something like this: “Is there anything I owe you an apology for? I really want unbroken fellowship with you.”

I sent eight of those texts in 2020. Almost always, the result of those awkward texts is a tender interaction; usually there are tears. More times than not I do owe an apology, sometimes for things I knew I did wrong and sometimes for things I didn’t. Sometimes I’ve said something that hurt somebody I love. Sometimes I’ve been dismissive. Sometimes I didn’t show up for someone I love when they needed me, and it hurt them. 

Sometimes I get an apology in return, though I’m never pandering for them when I send those texts. But it’s a comfort to hear, “I’m sorry,” said by someone I love.

Bitterness and anger and disappointment, they can pile up in our hearts. It’s such a relief to just clear those accounts and have fellowship restored with each other. 

Now, you’ve heard me say in this season that I have four boys.

Man, you think, she talks about her boys a lot! Yes, I do. They’re one of my favorite subjects! And if you know anything about raising boys, you know that dealing with conflict is just part of it—at least in my experience. I’m fond of saying that all of boyhood is just one continuous war game.

My boys will get into a skirmish with each other, and I will say, “Boys, is this Nerf gun, is this cookie, is this (whatever, fill-in-the-blank) worth breaking fellowship with your brother?” Now, I don’t want to paint a picture of myself as some kind of serene, peace-lover who lives in a home where we’re always at peace with each other. 

I’ve learned these lessons—not because my relationships are so smooth, they’re not, but because they’re so rocky! My personality type is like those rams you see on National Geographic that run toward each other head first. They head into the fight, and you might be like me in your temperament, being that way.

My sister likes to call me “scrappy,” and I am. Maybe you’re “conflict avoided.” Maybe you’re like me and you have a big, loud family. Maybe you live alone. Those kinds of dynamics don’t prevent one universal reality: relationships are messy!

Let’s head back to the Garden of Eden one more time. We’re going to look at Genesis 3:9–13. 

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?’ And he [Adam] said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 

[God] said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate." Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

If you’ve been following along with us, or if you know the first few chapters of your Bible well, you know how we got to this point. God created man and woman without sin, in perfect fellowship Him. Satan deceived them; they sinned, and fellowship was fractured.

Before sin entered the world (it feels like such a brief moment!) our natural bent was to live in harmony with one another. But because sin entered the world, our very nature has changed. Now our bent is to sabotage our relationships . . . even our most precious relationships!

It doesn’t matter what enneagram number you are or where you place on the Strength Finder; we all tend to blame and quarrel and distance ourselves from others. When Eve ate the fruit that God forbade her to eat, she sealed all of our fates. Relationships would be messy from then on as a result of sin!

So how do we respond to the relationship realities of living in a fallen world? That’s what determines if loneliness visits for a season—which it sometimes does for all of us—or whether loneliness unpacks its bags and stays and becomes our permanent state of being. 

Loneliness and sorrow—much like temptation and shame—are often two sides of the same coin. When we’re hurting, we often feel the most alone, because no one can really grieve for us. I can think back to just a few years ago when PawPaw—who was the beloved patriarch of our family—went to be with the Lord.

Within just a few hours of his passing (we live in a small town and word traveled quickly) our home was filled. I don’t know how they made that food so quickly! We had food, and we had paper plates, and we had flowers, and we had people stopping by to give us hugs. They told us beautiful stories—some of which we’d never heard before—of how PawPaw had impacted their lives.

People did press into our grief. While their presence was a comfort, they couldn’t feel our grief for us. We each had to carry our own heavy burden of hurt. That’s a reality of life on a broken planet. 

And so when pain and sorrow hit us, most of us tend to hide, because hiding seems easier at first than sharing our pain with others. That feels awkward. And can we be honest? It’s often disappointing. Even when they give us their best, even when they try to show up for us in our hurt, they can’t really say anything that would take the hurt away.

And so we can convince ourselves, “I’m not doing that anymore! I’m not going to tell anybody what I’m really feeling.” But still, even with all of that mess surrounding our relationships, God’s Word gives us some very clear instructions. And the instructions are to deal with the sorrows of life together.

Let me read us Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” There are many such “one anothers” in Scripture. In an earlier episode of this season, we heard James 5:16: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another.” 

Mark 9:50 says, “Be at peace with one another.” John 13:34 says, “Love one another.” Romans 15:7 says, “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.” Just that phrase “one another” is a Christian phrase! It’s a Christian idea. 

It speaks to the fact that we are a part of a whole, that we belong to each other. I belong to you, and you belong to me. We’re not “one” and “another.” We’re “one another.” So what does the apostle Paul mean when he says that bearing each other’s burdens fulfills the law of Christ?

Listen to Matthew 22:37–40: “And he [Jesus] said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” 

Love God=greatest commandment; love others=close second! 

So think back to the Garden of Eden. God didn’t let Adam and Eve stay hidden in their sin and shame. Of course, He knew where they were. Of course, He knew what had just happened. But He comes and finds them, and He compassionately clothes them.

How do they respond? They argued, and they deflected blame. It was messy, but God chose to enter the mess! 

Jesus is the ultimate burden-bearer. When God’s Word tells us to bear one another’s burdens, this is something that Jesus modeled for us. 

He took our greatest burden—sin—and carried it all the way to the cross! And when we help carry the pain of others, we imitate Him. When we let others into our pain, into our sin, into our mess, we give them the opportunity to imitate Jesus.

To be connected, to be really connected, we’ve got to make peace with “messy.” Sometimes I think the older we get, the less tolerance for messy we tend to have. Several years ago I was asked to come serve as a grief counselor at the local high school in my small town. Two girls had been killed in a fatal car accident. 

When I stepped through those library doors, the pain was nearly palpable. Teenagers are not very good at hiding their emotions, and I like that about them. I didn’t find a circle of high school students crying politely; I found them sobbing loudly. It was very awkward, very uncomfortable to watch.

They didn’t want to talk to me. They wanted to be with each other, and they passed around their pain in a circle of fellow-sufferers. I just sat back and watched them and prayed for them. I thought about how God meets us so intimately in our pain. In fact, God doesn’t just observe our pain with compassion—like I did there—He presses into it.

One of my favorite promises in Scripture is Psalm 34:18, that God is close to the brokenhearted. The more our hearts break, the closer He presses in! In Matthew 11:38 Jesus said when you’re worn out and weighed down, “Come to Me! Don’t hide from Me! Don’t go somewhere else! If you’re weary and heavy laden, I want you to come to Me.”

It’s a very Christ-like thing to do to move toward each others’ messy pain. Tim Cook has been my pastor for as long as I’ve been a Christian, and for a few years I served on staff at my church. Tim would bring us into his office—all the staff members. He would say this regularly, “Guys, you are first responders. When our church hurts this week, I expect you to run into it!”

I’ll never forget it; I’ll never get over it! Because I love Tim so much, and because this idea is backed by Scripture, I am a first responder. My flesh instinct is to run away from other peoples' messes . . . always! I haven’t gotten over that. But I choose to run into peoples' messes . . . and to let them run into mine.

An aversion to messiness is just one reason we are lonely. Our obsession with convenience is another. As a society, we’ve worked very, very hard to bypass our need for connection. Our phones know everything, so there’s no need to call Grandma and ask her for her pie crust recipe, right?

We pay at the pump. We buy our groceries from an electronic teller. “Fast” and “easy” have become virtues, but what opportunity costs have we paid for all of that? As I read the gospels, one fact is undeniable to me, and that is that Jesus valued people. In some ways, the gospels tell one long story of Jesus being stopped and interrupted and inconvenienced.

I mean, it goes from this interruption to this interruption. He’s on His way to this interruption, and He has this interruption. Everywhere He went, people stopped Him and asked for (and sometimes demanded) His attention. They were ever seeking to redirect His path!

I struggle to emulate Christ’s response to people in this way. I highly value productivity. Part of that’s my personality, and I think part of it is just the air we breathe. It is a cultural value, productivity. I like to have a plan; I like to know the plan; I like to stick to the plan. I can get pretty rattled when that doesn’t happen.

But valuing people is messy; it’s very time-consuming. It rarely sticks to a schedule; it’s inconvenient. It means doing things that can’t be quantified. You can’t report to others, necessarily, all the ways you valued people today. You can’t measure it, so you can’t set goals.

It means to develop relationships with people based on who they really are, not on who I want them to be. And practically, it means that my house is always dirty because people are always in it! It means that my schedule is constantly being thrown out the window, because people rarely have needs in the margin of my day planner.

It means that I have to measure success totally differently. I’m somebody who likes to measure success. I have to measure it by the depths of my relationships, and I can’t measure it by a life that seems manageable. My life almost never feels manageable!

“Christian community” is another buzzword we say a lot. But often, when we say Christian community, we’re describing something we do . . . and it’s not that. It’s something we embrace. True Christian community—as in communities that emulate Jesus—means that we let our relationships with each other trump neat, tidy, convenient, manageable lives.

I’m not doing all of this well, but I want to. In this, and in so many things, Jesus by His life says, “I’ll go first!” I mean, think about Jesus’s community; that was a messy group! I’m so glad the disciples were rascals, because I’m a rascal. But they were rascals! Over time, sometimes over time and history, we polish people up to a high shine. Not those disciples!

We read those stories and we’re like, “Yep, rascals! Every one of them.” Judas betrayed Him. Peter denied Him. The sons of Zebedee wanted Him to give them power, not His presence. The crowds wanted Him to heal them. Mary and Martha wanted Him to heal their brother Lazarus. 

And yet, Jesus pursues relationships with these messy people! He goes to them! He woos them! He invites them to follow Him, and He embraced the many inconveniences that came with loving such a messy group!

I have a couple of sayings that help me live this out. They’re not from Scripture; they might not even be from me, but they’re things I say pretty frequently. The first one I saw on a bumper sticker and it’s this, “Love people. Feed them good food!” If you’re in my inner circle and you’re listening to this, I hope you can testify to the ministry of my chocolate chip cookies in your life. Because when someone I know faces something messy—it could be grief, or it could be stress, or it could be loss—I can’t fix everything, but I can do something. I can love people. I can bring them good food.

The other is something I have to post often—you’ll find it in my office, you’ll sometimes find it in my kitchen. In my flesh, I very often see people as interruptions. That rattles me, because people are frequently interrupting me. So I’ve got to have some strategies to see them as Jesus sees them. 

So this is a math equation, but even right-brained people like me can handle it. It’s: People Over Projects. As I’ve mentioned before, I have four sons. For them, unjamming their Nerf gun is an emergency. 

It doesn’t matter if I’m in a meeting. It doesn’t matter to them if I have a writing deadline. They don’t stick to my schedule! They don’t get sick on my schedule. They don’t always feel insecure and need their mama on my schedule. I don’t always get this right, and I don’t want to claim that I do. But the interruptions of parenthood are just going to keep coming.

And the interruptions of friendship are just going to keep coming, and the interruptions of loving messy people and letting them love messy you are just going to keep coming. I want to be like Jesus! That means I can’t respond with constant exasperation, but with compassion. 

It means that I have to choose that my sons matter more than convenience. They’re my mission field. How dare I dismiss them because it wasn’t my plan to attend to them in that moment. Every one of those boys bears the image of God, and every person you’re going to encounter today bears the image of God!

So some questions: Can people just drop by your house? And if they do, can they leave knowing they matter to you? I think of my friend, Jenny, one of my closest friends. We were at a women’s event at my church. We were talking about what it would mean if we were really connected to each other?

And Jenny stood up, tears streaming, and said, “I want people who will come in my house and open my fridge and see what’s in there!” And the whole room audibly went, “Ahhh, us, too!” We want those kinds of unfiltered relationships. So can people just drop by your house, your desk? And if they do, will they leave knowing they matter to you?

Can a friend call you and interrupt your day? Do people say this to you a lot, “I know you’re busy, but . . .” Do they have the sense that you are available to them? Can Jesus, by the power of His Holy Spirit, woo you away from your schedule? Can Jesus interrupt you? Can He woo you away from your to-do list? 

Can He woo you away from your love of convenience to pursue a relationship with you? If we want to be known, two idols must topple. The first is “neat and tidy.” We’re going to have to make peace with messy. And the second is convenience. 

I want to wrap up this episode with one of my favorite stories in Scripture. It’s about a woman, the Bible doesn’t even tell us her name, but she’s a woman for whom Jesus was willing to be interrupted. 

We find her story in Matthew 9:18–22: 

While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live." And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.

And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, "If I only touch his garment, I will be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well.

Oh, this woman knew loneliness! This woman knew isolation, and she couldn’t live like that for another minute! She couldn’t stay in that place of disconnection. And to Jesus, she was not an interruption. She bore His image. He bore her burden. She was worth stopping for, even as He was on His way to do the very important work of healing somebody else. 

People over projects. Love people; feed ‘em good food. Send the awkward texts. Bake the cookies. Embrace the interruptions. In other words, love God, love others! 

Erin Unscripted

Laura: Erin, what made you cry?

Erin: Ah, it’s that story of the woman with the issue of blood. I don’t know why I’m so drawn to that story; I have been for many years. She suffered for a long time, and so that speaks to being a human. She had been isolated by her suffering. I think that speaks to the human condition, too.

Her need for Jesus, and Jesus’s compassion to her, are so sweet to me. There’s a connection in Scripture that I’ve made through the years that makes the story even sweeter.

She reaches toward Him and says, “If I could just touch the hem of His robe, I’ll be healed.” There is a verse in Job—it’s Job 26:14—that tells us that we’ve only seen the outskirts, the fringes, of God’s Word.

And so, we’re her! I mean, she just touched the outskirts of what God could do, and it changed everything for her! We’ve just seen the outskirts of what God can do and what God will do, and it changes everything for us.

I just am always so moved by realizing that He moves towards us with compassion. After twenty years of being a Christian, I still have this latent fear that my need is disappointing to Him, or that He wearies of it. He doesn’t; He didn’t with her. So I hope I never stop crying about it!

Laura: That’s really beautiful! I think it does give us a wellspring from which to draw our own compassion for others. If I’m just going around bearing peoples' burdens, I get crushed pretty fast, like wiped out within fifteen minutes of trying!

But if that wellspring is coming from the hem of His garment and from His attention and turning toward me—which it always is—then I can go all day!

Erin: It’s not in our compassion, true compassion, toward other people to give them more of us, because we’re finite. As you said at the top of this episode, we are not machines. I had a wise older woman in my church say to me once, “Give people to Jesus! It’s the safest place for them to be.”

Laura: Yes!

Erin: That idea that I can love you, I can be in a relationship with you, I can connect with you, because I’m really just a conduit to get you to Jesus. That’s the safest place for you to be, and then it’s more sustainable.

So I’m back to the woman. She wanted to be healed, and she got healed, but she got Jesus! So she got more than healed, because she got Him. That’s a good lens for us to use to look at others. 

Laura: Thank you for saying that; that is so helpful! I was going to ask you, you know we have jobs to do. We can’t just drop everything all of the time for interruptions and when we’re needed. First responders live a certain lifestyle in real life—people who run to the hurricane and run to the forest fire. We can’t all live that way.

Some of us have to support the first responders and keep the homefires burning. When they come back, we rub their feet and unpack their dirty laundry. But when it comes to all of us being first responders in the body of Christ, I think it does look like learning to have some of those tools.

So you get an email saying someone has a crisis, and you literally cannot drop everything right now and sit and talk with them for three hours. But you can send an email back. Okay, what’s the email going to say? That’s important, right? It’s important that an email goes back real quick, or some kind of touchpoint as soon as you can. But how can I point them to Jesus so that they’re in His hands, and then I’ll look for the opportunity and the door to come back into the story.

Erin: Yes. Even in moments that feel like a really intense crisis, that I should drop everything for, I’ll frequently say, “I need to pray about this.” Because my first response in my flesh is the first thing on every scene. I know that my human response is not what you need. You need Jesus working through me.

And so, “Thank you for reaching out. I hear you; this is important to me. But I need to take a little bit of time to pray, and then I’ll get back to you.” And then, I need to get back to them. But that pause not to be sucked into the eye of the hurricane, so to speak. I need to realize that, “Yes, I am going to respond to this, but I want to walk in the Spirit.”

That requires some time, some thinking, some praying, some watching for what the best responses are. And you’re right, first responders live on call all the time. I don’t see a biblical mandate that we’re on call all the time, but they’re not always at the crisis either. They live normal lives in-between crises.

So, this isn’t nonstop crisis response, but it also isn’t the idea that crisis response is somebody else’s job. It’s always “somebody else’s job,” but there are times that we are needed.

Laura: “It’s my job.”

Erin: It’s mine, right.

Laura: That’s a really good point. Sometimes I think it’s helpful to know the costs of my calling up-front. You know when Jesus said, “Consider the cost of taking up my Cross and following Me, so that you know what you’re getting into.” So, in your view, what are some of the costs of this type of connection that we are called to as Christians?

Erin: Well, it can be physically exhausting to be available to people, and usually it’s going to cost you some physical rest. So you’ve got to know that there’s probably going to be a physical toll that takes place in your body.

There’s an emotional toll. I don’t have very high mercy gifts at all, but we all are gifted with some God-given empathy. If you are going to choose to enter other peoples' suffering, rather than spectate, rather than just watch from afar . . . or ignore . . . it hurts!

Bearing other peoples' burdens means you’re bearing a burden! Weeping with people who weep means you weep! And so, you’ve got to know there’s some heart. Probably the primary opportunity cost is your comfort. But, if anyone has ever been a first responder in your life, you know it’s a cost worth paying.

You know they’ve sacrificed their comfort for you, and you can look back on that and go, “That saved me! That carried me! I couldn’t have gone through it without them!” So, if you put it all on a scale, it’s far more worth it to give to others and to be a first responder to others.

It might cost you relationally in other places. There might be other people in your life who don’t like that you always respond that way, or it makes them uncomfortable, or “Why are you always praying with people?” or ”Why are we going to this funeral of this person you barely know?” You’ve got to be willing to probably not have everybody love it.

This is kind of a theme in my life that relates here somewhat. I am constantly convicted that I want to live counter-culturally but I don’t want anyone to give me a hard time about it! And by definition, if you live counter-culturally, people are going to give you a hard time about it!

And if you live like a first responder, if you press into peoples' pain, if you’re willing to sacrifice comfort, that is counter-cultural. You should not expect it to be widely applauded.

Laura: Yes. So when it’s not easy and when you feel like you’re kind of going against the crowd or going against the flow, you feel that pressure, then you can know maybe you’re on to something, instead of feeling discouraged.

Erin: Right, for sure!

Laura: I’ll just share one other little thing. You talked about living in harmony with one another. One of my daughters was actually just bringing this up the other day.

She said, “Mom, I’ve always read that verse as if it means, just keep the peace, do whatever it takes to like not make waves. But I think what that really means—when you’re living in harmony with somebody—is also what it means musically. It’s that harmony note that actually makes that melody better because you’re there.

It was just so beautiful to hear her describe what that looks like to her as she comes alongside people or even with her siblings. She’s really trying to consider, “What does that look like, that because I’m here, they are stronger and better and more able to follow the Lord?” That’s just something I thought I would add.

Erin: I love that, because harmony is not just one long, single, solitary note.

Laura: Maybe you’ve been with us today thinking, Yes, I want to develop stronger relationships. I do want to encourage people around me. I do want to put people over projects. I do want to overcome an addiction to convenience and productivity. I do want to bear other peoples' burdens. I do want to fulfill the law of Christ! I want to develop relationships that will sharpen me.

Erin has written a book that will help you seek God’s Word and explore the topic of relationships. It’s called Connected: Curing the Pandemic of Everyone Feeling Alone Together. It’s full of really helpful insights that will get you out of the status quo and start you living your relationships the way God intended. To get a copy for yourself or a small group, you can visit ReviveOurHearts.com/TheDeepWell. 

On the next episode, Erin is going to explore a paradox. Sometimes when we’re the most lonely, we don’t really need to be around other people; we need something far more important. Next time on The Deep Well, Erin will show us what we do need!

We’ll open the Bible together next time with Erin, because God’s Word is a deep well! You can drop down your bucket and pull up truth every time! 

The Deep Well is a production of Revive Our Hearts, calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Guest

Laura Booz

Laura Booz

Laura Booz is a writer, teacher, and podcaster who encourages women to love God, think biblically, and live vibrantly. She'll cheer you on, share practical ideas, and point out the beautiful ways God is working in your life. She’s delighted to host the Expect Something Beautiful podcast with Revive Our Hearts and to be writing her first book. She and her husband, Ryan, and their six children make their home in Pennsylvania. Meet her at LauraBooz.com.

About the Speaker

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many …

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